MEET THE MAN SET TO MONOPOLIZE CBD: JUSTIN GOVER

GW PHARMACEUTICAL SETS THEIR AIM

GW Pharmaceuticals is a publicly traded company that’s been spending a lot of money lately. According to their financial reports, between operations in the U.S. and U.K., GW lost $145 million in 2016 alone. No, the company isn’t failing — it’s expanding. In fact, the company has set sights on the U.S., and its subsidiary Greenwich BioSciences has been making moves in more than just medicine. In an effort that makes GW look like a corporate Genghis Khan, GW and Greenwich have raised eyebrows, having been seen with various lobbying firms across the country. In order to understand why GW’s efforts are so dangerous for the world of CBD, one must first understand that GW is in the business of politics, not medicine.

Screenshot of Greenwhich Bioscience's website

GW Pharmaceutical’s subsidiary in the U.S. is Greenwich Biosciences Inc., a company which is lobbying from state to state for approval for their latest CBD-infused drug, Epidolex.

There are two main chemical compounds found in cannabis and cannabis-sourced products: CBD and THC (there are others, but these are the most important). As you may know, cannabis has been federally illegal in the U.S. since 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act. Interestingly enough, marijuana probably became illegal thanks to its associations with the Mexican immigrants who brought it to the U.S. in the early 1900s and into the Great Depression. As anti-immigrant sentiment rose, so did anti-marijuana sentiment. Many thought marijuana promoted crime and degeneracy, associating the drug with the perceived behavior of Mexican immigrants.

NO ONE SEEMS TO UNDERSTAND CBD

The main argument people have against marijuana is its psychoactive effects (caused by THC). Marijuana can confuse your brain’s dopamine receptors – people say – and it’s a gateway drug which can lead to addiction and escalation. Others argue the government should have no say in what we consume, and that it’s inconsistent to legalize alcohol and not marijuana.

Marijuana, however, is not just a recreational drug. Cannabis (which, by the way, is the scientific name for the plant marijuana is made from) is a powerful and effective medicine that’s been used by humans across the globe for thousands of years. In fact, Queen Victoria even treated her menstrual pains with cannabis oils.

Despite this extensive history, mainstream thought has become, “Ok, if you really really need it, you can have just a little bit of marijuana to treat your ailments… but only after mountains of paperwork and regulation.” U.S. States — due to pressure from activists and lobbyists backed by pharmaceutical companies looking to profit off the “green rush” — have in the last decade, one by one, moved to provide better access to medical marijuana and/or legalize/decriminalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes.

While it’s a step in the right direction, it’s not enough. States are only weakly addressing the issue, and the federal government is considered by many to be a lost cause. Almost every actor in this hard-to-follow play suffers from a lack of understanding of cannabis and the chemical properties behind it.

While it’s true that enough THC gets you high, CBD does not. CBD is responsible for many of the medical benefits found in cannabis, and it has no psychoactive effects. That being said, it is generally accepted that CBD and THC work best when used simultaneously, side-by-side. Note that, also, when used together CBD has the tendency of counterbalancing the high-effects of THC (when using a strain with the right ratio), providing for an optimal treatment.

GW PHARMA: PROFITEERING OFF OF THE FOG OF WAR

At the end of the day, this entangled web makes for wishy-washy politicians, unsatisfied consumers, angry entrepreneurs, and money-hungry industrial giants. Since the paperwork to register as patients with your state (if your state allows it) is such a headache, consumers want a work around. Entrepreneurs, as savvy as they come, have found a loophole. According to the federal 2014 Farm Bill, products sourced from Hemp with under .3% THC are legal in all 50 states. Entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the bill and have collectively spawned several hundred CBD companies under the classification of “dietary supplements,” which is far less regulated than an actual drug. This is why you always see disclaimers at the bottom of CBD sites saying “Warning, we’re not saying any of this stuff will actually heal you! But wink wink, we’ll merely imply that it does.”

As you might know, gaining the status of a medical drug is extremely costly in time, money, and elbow grease. Small-time entrepreneurs can’t afford to become certified by the government, and as such their product remains unverified and, well, you’ll just have to take their word for whatever claims they make (or imply). And although this leaves small-time companies behind the curve, GW and its counterparts couldn’t wish for a better scenario. High demand met by a confusing supply chain is a wonderful thing for new entrants, and GW intends to be the serious and certified alternative to the sea of unverified CBD startups.

But trusting GW’s products over other uncertified small businesses won’t be a consumer choice. It will be law.

WEAPON OF CHOICE? THE PATENT

While the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services have been on a crusade against medical cannabis grown and sold right here in the U.S., the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is at the same time helping GW Pharma lock up the intellectual property rights to a number of cannabis-sourced medicines. GW Pharmaceuticals is trying to monopolize medical cannabis in the States, and our government is helping them do it (see patents: No. 9,205,063No. 9,168,278No. 8,790,719). And while you can’t patent a plant, you can patent how a naturally-derived medicine can be used to treat varying ailments. In other words, GW is patenting cannabis solutions to be used in the context of certain conditions.

Why would the U.S. government side with a giant British company instead of homegrown startups right here in the U.S.? Lobbyists, that’s why. Between 2015 and 2016, GW Pharmaceuticals has spent $250,000 on lobbying, hiring Sidley Austin LLP to do the company’s bidding.

Since a federally-granted drug patent carries more force than homegrown health supplement companies who can’t afford to lobby the government, GW will be able to enforce their patents whenever they choose — and that even means shutting down companies who’ve been providing medical marijuana solutions years and years before the British opportunists were ever on the scene.


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